Anyone who works indoors in the construction industry knows the importance of auxiliary illumination, especially in new construction. Until the electrical is finished, jobsites rarely have enough light to work by. For years, I've used halogen work lights for large spaces and single incandescent trouble lights for tighter places, like crawlers and attics. They work well enough, but not without problems. Trouble lights can be a bit dim, and their fragile bulbs can go out at the first jostle. Halogens burn too hot and are harsh on the eyes. How are manufacturers addressing these concerns? Next generation work lights focus on energy-efficient fluorescent technology.

Husky Room Light

Speaking of next generation, Husky's new 272-931 work light looks like something right out of Star Trek. This 360-degree beacon work light stands more than 5 feet tall and is supported by wide tripod legs, but it collapses to less than 3 feet long for portability. Two common, 42-watt compact fluorescent lamps provide soft, even lighting in all directions, comfortably illuminating a room without being harsh on the eyes or needing repositioning to direct the light. You can modify the brightness only by using lower wattage lamps.

I had the Husky light set up for several weeks on a recent addition my company was building. Every one of the two-dozen subcontractors that worked in the space commented on the light. Most were favorable; the first thing noted was how easy the light is on the eyes. The plumber, who was familiar with the light because he owns one, said he got rid of all his other lights because the Husky model works so well.

I found the light very easy to set up and move around the jobsite. It is a little cumbersome in tight quarters like most large tripod-supported lights, but at least the footprint can be reduced after unlocking the legs–at the cost of some stability, though. Another cool feature about the light is how it turns on and off. To turn on, simply pull the light tube out of the housing and up to the locking position. The light automatically switches on. To turn off, release the locking lever and retract the light tube back into the metal housing. The fluorescent lamps turn off and blue-colored LED lights illuminate under the cap, creating a sort of night light.

The Verdict

I give an overall passing grade to the powerful Husky room light. It's relatively compact when folded up, and easy to transport and store. The full 360-degree lighting eliminates constant repositioning in a room, saving a lot of time and frustration with getting light where you need it. Its aluminum housing looks sturdy enough to see the unit through years of construction work, but the plastic feet and leg hinges seem a bit lighter-duty; the feet on my unit all broke in shipping. A removable snap-on or velcro-attached shield would be nice addition to shade one side of the light for bounced, diffused light without glare when working up close to the unit. And the ability to switch on just one bulb for controlling brightness could increase its jobsite versatility.

DeWalt Area Light

DeWalt has introduced the DC022 combination fluorescent work light and battery charger. The unique feature of this light is that it operates on both line voltage and one or two DeWalt 12- to 18-volt batteries, which are purchased separately. This is a great work light for small jobs and areas that are tough to get in and out of, like crawl spaces and attics.

The light features a swiveling head on pivoting arms, which let you aim the light where you need it. The head folds neatly into the body for transporting. The unit is compact, measuring about 12 x 24 x4 inches with the head folded closed, and its sledlike bottom lets you easily drag it along a dirt floor or attic joists. There are three GFCI-protected outlets on the tool, two battery charger/ power ports with hold-down arms to keep batteries securely attached, and a nice rubber-grip handle. The lamp itself is a proprietary 38-watt fluorescent unit.

The strengths of this light are its portability and cordless operation. I liked not having to worry about a power cord as I worked in an attic space. And because fluorescent lights don't get hot, there was no danger in placing it directly on insulation. The light-head's arms can lock in several positions for various lighting angles, or even be set with the head flush with the base when using the light hanging up on a wall.

Curious at how long it would last on battery power alone, I operated the light several times using two fully charged 18-volt XRP nicad batteries. Each trial provided about three hours of light before requiring a recharge, and then that was as easy as just plugging in the unit. The light also will work with one battery at the same brightness but for less time. And although the DeWalt light will illuminate a room, it stays focused in one direction only and will require periodic repositioning.

The Verdict

I like the DeWalt work light for many reasons. Since I have other DeWalt cordless tools, I was ready to go with my batteries; the extra charger ports are nice to have, working with DeWalt batteries from 7.2 to 18 volts. With the GFCI outlets built into the tool body, plugging in the light does not take away from the precious few outlets on a busy, new construction site. Its rugged, compact design makes it easy to tote around and use in tight spots.

About the only thing I don't like is its proprietary lamp, which makes replacement more complicated. But considering the long life of fluorescents, the hassle is minimal.

DeWalt's new 18-volt lithium-ion Nano batteries will not fit in this light/charger, but DeWalt is promising an updated version to fix that.

272-931 Work Light
Price $60

DeWalt Industrial Tools
DC022 Work Light/Battery Charger
Price $149